Patricia Cummings says she was unfairly fired from her position at William W Niles School, a middle school in the Bronx, after some students claimed she had black students lie on the floor and then walked on their backs during a social studies lesson about slavery in January 2018. The teacher maintained that she only had the students sit closely next to each other to mimic conditions on a slave ship.
After an investigation, the DOE fired Cummings in the fall, saying, “Ms. Cummings was terminated based on the results of this investigation and a review of her overall performance as an educator.”
At a press conference on Thursday, Cummings complained, “It could have been any teacher in the DOE that this happened to, but I was a white teacher from the Bronx. I fit the profile. I fit their compelling story that they needed to move their agenda to get that cultural responsive agenda through.”
Cummings and her lawyer, Thomas Liotti, said she was fired even though the DOE investigator’s report found the accusations to be “unsubstantiated” and that the original accuser’s claim wasn’t corroborated, while she had been rated “effective” in performance reviews.
“This is a serious case of reverse discrimination,” Liotti said. Cummings said a fellow teacher, who is black, believes that her lesson was fine and a black teacher wouldn’t have been fired for the same lesson.
“The Daily News started this whole thing,” she said, referring to how the tabloid broke the story. “They came to the school. They questioned students.” She also recounted how she was on the Long Island Rail Road hiding her face, because she was on the cover of the tabloid.
“I have no career at this point,” Cummings said.
She also insisted she wasn’t racist: “Anyone who has met me knows I don’t have that bone in my body. I was brought up — you treat everybody the way you want to be treated.”
Other defendants in her lawsuit include State Senator Kevin Parker, Council Member Jumaane Williams, and radio personality Charlamagne Tha God, who all criticized Cummings. “I believe this case will probably eventually wind up in federal court as well as state court,” Liotti said, adding that he expects other teachers who have faced discrimination to join in the suit.